Bad news for tea drinkers

April 24, 2008 in Myths & Truths | 6 comments

teacupHere’s a question I received today from Julie:

I recently learned that green tea and black tea are very high in fluoride because they pull it from the ground… can you say more about this?

As a tea drinker myself, I wish I could tell you that this is a myth. Unfortunately, it’s all too true. And although medical authorities continue to tell us that fluoride is a harmless substance which prevents dental caries and tooth decay, a large body of scientific research says otherwise.

Fluorides are toxins that accumulate in the body over time. That’s why the Surgeon General has established limits for maximum fluoride content in our drinking water which are regulated by the EPA. This limit was set in order to avoid a condition known as Crippling Skeletal Fluorosis (CSF). The limit of four parts per million (ppl) or 4 mg/liter was designed to prevent only the third and most serious stage of CSF, where the extremities become weak and the vertebrae partially fuse together, crippling the patient. Yet studies published by the World Health Organization (1970) have shown that a daily dose of even 2-8 mg/L of fluoride can cause third-stage CSF!

For a more thorough discussion of the dangers of fluoride, I recommend reading this article by Andreas Schuld, the head of an organization called Parents of Fluoride Poisoned Children (PFPC), and visiting the PFPC website. I have also embedded a video interview with Christopher Bryson at the end of this post. Bryson is the author of The Fluoride Deception, a scathing critique of one of the most damaging public health misconceptions of our time.

Schuld mentions several different sources of fluoride, from foods to prescription drugs. The highest source of fluoride in any edible plant, however, is tea leaves. Fluoride content in teas has risen precipitously over the past 20 years due to industry contamination and other environmental factors. In a 2005 study at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, researchers found that some regular strength preparations contain as much as 6.5 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride, well over the 4 ppm maximum allowed in drinking water by the Environmental Protection Agency and 2.4 ppm permitted in bottled water and beverages by the Food and Drug Administration. The Public Health Service indicates that the fluoride concentration in drinking water should not exceed 1.2 ppm.

More recent studies cited by Schuld in her article have revealed a fluoride content of 17.25 mg per teabag or cup in black tea, and a whopping 22 mg of soluble fluoride ions per teabag or cup in green tea. The longer a tea bag is steeped, the higher the fluoride content will be. In fact, one study demonstrated that the amount of measurable fluoride almost doubles in just ten minutes.

To put this in perspective, drinking one cup of green tea with 22 mg of soluble fluoride ions is equivalent to drinking 22 liters of water that has been fluoridated to the Public Health Service recommended level of 1 ppm.

Tea is the second most widely consumed beverage in the world behind water. And believe it or not, nearly 127 million (almost half) of Americans drink tea. Tea is consumed in far greater amounts in countries like the UK, China and India. The increasing fluoride levels in our environment pose a significant threat to the health and well-being of literally billions of people around the world. We must urge public health officials to stop fluoridating our water and begin to acknowledge the overwhelming amount of scientific data indicating fluoride’s toxicity and negative impact on human health.

Recommended links

  • Fluoride: Worse Than we Thought
  • Fluoridation: The Fraud of the Century
  • Fluoride levels in tea – USA
  • Fluoride levels in food
  • The Fluoride Education Project

The video below is an interview with Christopher Bryson, author of The Fluoride Deception. It is an excellent introduction to the history and dangers of fluoridation.


Anne April 30, 2010 at 11:05 pm

You don’t mention whether the flouride is sodium flouride or calcium flouride.  My understanding was that sodium flouride (the kind found in water supplies, toothpastes etc and which originates as a waste by-product of the aluminium industry) was detrimental, but that calcium flouride was not.
Do you have an opinion on sodium vs calcium flouride?

Chris Kresser May 1, 2010 at 7:24 am


I have not looked into that issue enough to form an opinion. I do know from reading The Fluoride Deception that the author, Bryson, and Schuld, who I mentioned in the article, consider tea a risk if consumed in large quantities.

mart June 5, 2010 at 8:14 pm

I’m sorry, but in the first few minutes of this video my alarm bells went off. “DDT Science!” in the intro voice-over as a criticism? The same DDT that since Rachel Carson got it banned has been sorely missed by the tens of millions of victims of malaria all over the world, but mostly in Africa.
Also Ralph Nader as his go-to guy upon starting research into fluoride? While he may have done some good in a very general sense as a consumer advocate in the past I’d consider his integrity highly dubious nowadays. As a major advocate of government regulation and intrusion into citizen’s lives – which is in my opinion an almost universally bad idea – witness the heart-health pyramid and other disastrous government (and mercantilist [big business and government colluding] schemes that have been derided all over this blog. Starting from these premises I’d be willing to put money on this being a very warped documentary film.

Alina August 25, 2010 at 12:14 am

Hi Chris,
It is such a pity because tea, especially green one, is supposed to be good for you and I really enjoy different kinds of tea. What would you consider as “large quantity of tea”?
Does it matter from which part of the world the tea comes from? Are all teas bad? What about roiboos?
Thank you

Chris Kresser August 25, 2010 at 7:50 am

I don’t really know the answer to your question.  I still drink 2-3 cups of tea (twig, roiboos, mint, etc.) per day myself, and I’m not too worried about it.

Alina August 27, 2010 at 11:34 pm

Thank you for your response.
So what you are saying is that as long as we drink 2 or 3 cups a day then it is not a problem.
Just curious, is the high fluoride content in tea due to how it is farmed (pesticides, fungicides etc.), geographic location maybe? Would organic tea be high in fluoride as well?
Are certain types of tea higher in fluoride compared to other teas? Is roiboos high in fluoride as well? It is not technically a tea, is it?
A little off topic but does tea stain teeth badly? Which tea(s) would be the worst offenders? Would drinking through a glass straw help?
I know that it is many questions but you are so knowledgeable so I take “advantage” of you (LOL).
Thank you in advance.

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